“I’m on track during the week, but it all falls apart on the weekend.” That’s a statement I’ve heard countless times from my clients over the years, and research shows that weekend eating is indeed a major factor in weight control. One University of Pittsburgh study asked more than 600 participants to keep track of the foods eaten by everyone in their household over a two-week period. The study found that those who ate more on weekends did so at all three meals, consuming as much as 20 percent more overall, a habit that could lead to a 10-pound weight gain in a year’s time. If you tend to get side-tracked on Saturday and Sunday, or maybe starting Friday night, try this three-step strategy:
Plan Your Splurge
Sometimes the weekend can feel like an "anything goes mini-vacation," but planning ahead can prevent Monday morning regret. As the weekend approaches, choose one or two splurge meals (maybe a popcorn at the movies Friday night or a Sunday brunch) and commit to eating healthfully at other meals. With 52 weekends a year to enjoy, you’ll have plenty more splurges to look forward to.
Switch Up Your Social Calendar
Many of my clients fall into food-as-entertainment ruts with significant others, friends and family members. Break the cycle. Instead of going to happy hour, out to dinner or for ice cream, suggest something new, from a fun class (dance, art, healthy cooking) to visiting the current exhibit at your local museum, or doing something outside, like renting a rowboat, visiting a pick-your-own farm or going for a hike.
Listen to Your Body
During the week your meals may be dictated by your work schedule, but when you don’t have a set schedule it’s easy to wind up eating all day, especially if you sleep through breakfast, which can throw your appetite off-kilter. This weekend, try an experiment: When an eating opportunity presents itself, stop and check in with your body to see if you’re hungry. If you don’t have any physical signs of hunger, like a growling tummy, wait. And when you are hungry, slow down and stop when you feel full, not stuffed, even if you haven’t cleaned your plate. This single simple habit is powerful enough to prevent you from overdoing it so you won’t “outgrow” your jeans by this time next year.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.